The first time Joy Crookes laughs in the video for ‘Power’, it’s a disarming moment. The video, shot entirely in black and white, matches the song’s ele-gance in both purpose and style: classic yet modern, collective yet singular, softly spoken and sharp-tongued all at once. If that’s the case, it’s perhaps be-cause Crookes seeks to celebrate women, to exhibit joy, as much as denigrate those who seek to compromise their integrity. “You came here through a woman,” she sings. “Show some fucking respect.”
At the age of 19, the artist is more familiar than most with the music industry and its fickle relationship with respect. She’s already been heralded as one of the brightest talents of her generation by music writers, and relegated to the status of ‘mystery brunette’ by gossip hacks. Naturally, it’s a fast way to learn. “Being in the music industry for the short time I have been has taught me over a hundred lessons,” Crookes tells me. “Sometimes you learn the hard way, other times it’s just right there in front of you.”
Framed against a long-overdue reckoning, the South London artist sees brighter developments. “There are definitely positive changes: incredible collectives such as gal-dem and BBZ are opening up platforms for women of colour to have their voice heard across all different industries.” But Crookes still sees a lack of representation when it comes to South Asian backgrounds. “There have been some positive changes for us, yet I rarely see anyone in the media that looks like my family.”
If last year’s ‘Influence’ EP is anything to go by, we’re going to see a lot more of Crookes, at least. Every track, not just the incendiary ‘Power’, sounds like it’s ready to be heard by more people - and if the 1.3 million views of her ‘Mother May I Sleep With Danger?’ performance for COLORS Berlin are anything to go by, she’s not that far off.
Not that she’s too concerned with numbers as any arbiter of success. “I don’t feel anywhere near the level of ‘damn, I made it’. But my grandma’s face at my headline show, and seeing my mum and dad in the crowd, is a huge deal for me. Whenever I catch their eye, it’s always half a look of disbelief, and then just a massive wad of support.” With more live shows beckoning this summer, including The Great Escape, and a debut album pegged for 2019, there’s going to be a lot more where that came from.
WHERE: Red hot South London
WHAT: Soulful R&B that bites back
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Power’, ‘Manhattan’, ‘Mother May I Sleep With Danger?’
FACT: Joy has a birth mark on her face - when she was born, her mum thought it was butter, and spat on her to try to rub it off. “That situation pretty much set up the foundations of our relationship…”
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Words: Matthew Neale
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Product: Tommy Hilfiger
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
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